Lost Decade Games is an award-winning indie developer specializing in retro themed hack and slash games such as Lava Blade, Onslaught and their newest project Crypt Run: Death is Just the Beginning. I sat down with Matt Hackett and Geoff Blair to discuss the highs and lows of their successful Kickstarter campaign, as well as their lovely new indie title.

ME: Hello, this is TwoDashStash.com and today we are interviewing Lost Decade Games about their game Crypt Run: Death Is Just The Beginning. Joining me today are Matt Hackett and Geoff Blair. It was a Kickstarter project that recently surpassed its funding goals on august the 11th and will be coming to the Wii U, PC, Mac and Linux. So Matt, tell us about your game and the experience you want to provide for players.

MATT HACKETT: Sure, so Crypt Run is a medieval fantasy hack and slash game. It’s inspired by Zelda and Spelunky, and I mean the original Zelda, I’m not talking about the current ones. So the primary features are that it’s a procedurally generated dungeon crawler and it involves lots of movement and skill based combat, that kind of stuff, in the spirit of Spelunky it’s kind of a rogue-like in that it’s got permadeath. You always like, have one trajectory through the dungeon, and the dungeons being procedurally generated always offers new experiences to play.

"...the dungeons being procedurally generated always offers new experiences to play"

“…the dungeons being procedurally generated always offers new experiences to play”

GEOFF BLAIR: So one of the unique things about Crypt Run is the death mechanic. We kind of have this alternate dimension that you get to go into when you die and it’s something that you can come back from as well. There’s different monsters and different items and stuff to be found in, what we call, the Realm Of The Dark. We’re really hoping to add a lot of interesting content in terms of questing and overlap in between the two realms.

ME: That was a very interesting mechanic to me. The switching between realms upon death or revival sounds like a very interesting spin on the rogue like foundations. So, I’m just going to ask, what compelled you to make this experience? Why did you make this game?

MATT: SO we actually had a real-time multiplayer game contract that was given to us late last year and that one had some weird requirements: It needed to be a lobby based multiplayer game, played in a browser, have two to ten players per room. We spent about three months working on that game and really what Crypt Run is the single player version of that. What happened was, that contract was cancelled, after we finished the game and were getting ready to launch it. It wasn’t anything having to do with the game itself, it was just that the start-up was kind of young and they were pivoting a lot, they wanted to get away from providing a real-time multiplayer platform so, without that platform, we had all of this game code and all these ideas, all these art assets and stuff. We wanted to remix all of that into a single player experience. A couple of years ago we had an idea for taking the legend of Zelda dungeon, taking that format, and making a game out of it. Over the last year or two Geoff and I both have been really inspired by Spelunky, it’s one of our favorite modern games. That’s kind of the inspiration for these pieces left over from this failed multiplayer game and trying to deliver an excellent single player experience with it.

Well it looks like they are off to a great start.

Well it looks like they are off to a great start.

GEOFF: We’ve also been wanting to revisit Onslaught: Arena, which is one of our very first games, we made it in 2010 and it’s a twin-stick shooter kind of game where you’re in an arena fighting off all kinds of different monsters. We’ve always been wanting to take that experience and bring that into a bigger game, that core mechanic of dodging and shooting, a really twin stick shooter kind of feel to the gameplay. Also that multiplayer game that we were working on was kind of the catalyst for the Realm of the dead, because what we did is that when you died in the multiplayer experience we didn’t want you to just sit there and stare at the screen, so we turned you into a ghost when you died. You could wander around the dungeon and you could slightly affect other players in different ways by like, if you collided with them it would slow them down and things like that. That’s kind of what got the ideas flowing for bringing the Realm of the dead to the single player version of Crypt Run.

ME: In the past couple of years Rogue likes have become one of the most popular indie genres, you’ve got games such as FTL, The Binding Of Isaac, with lots of procedurally generated content. How much depth are you packing into this game as compared to other games in the genre? How far does the rabbit hole go in terms of switching between the realms, the various combat mechanics, etc.?

MATT: So that stuff is very incomplete so far, but we’ve been very inspired by Spelunky so we want to have these multi-step quests. Spelunky is very good about progressively increasing difficulty and giving players more and more to juggle. We want to do that kind of thing. Spelunky has four primary levels and a fifth hell themed level, we’re not going to able to afford having that much content. We’re going to have the three primary dungeons, the cemetery the sewer and the final level is going to be the Crypt. What we are going to have is essentially, twice that amount of content because of the realm of the dead mechanic. We do want to have lots of multi-step quests and lots of interweaving challenges you have to do where in order to get to some content in the game you actually have to die and then get resurrected in order to get to that area in the realm of the light.

GOEFF: Because it is a rogue like you’re not going to see all of the content on any given run. You might have to do certain things that are mutually exclusive for other quests or, due to randomization, you might just not see a certain item on a given dungeon run.

"Rogue-likes have become one of the most popular indie genres..."

“Rogue-likes have become one of the most popular indie genres…”

ME: I notice that the art style is very clean, reminding me a bit of The Binding Of Isaac, clear black lines outlining everything, and animated style…Why this artistic vision?

MATT: Thanks, thanks a lot, I’ve been working on that art style for about three years. When Geoff and I first started Lost Decade Games back in 2010, we were actually both working full-time at a web start-up called Raptor, just as web developers, and we wanted to start working on games together so I kind of just jumped into the deep end. I went and bought on onscreen tablet and i just started drawing and trying to figure out where I could be effective. Back then, in 2010, pixel art was becoming really popular with indie games and I think one of the reasons for that is because it’s kind of simple, it’s not as hard to draw a 16 X 16 sprite as it is much larger that can be kind of overwhelming. Also it was striking a chord with a lot of classic gamers, they were really big fans of pixel art coming back. Over the next couple of years, my style has started leaning more towards… they look like they’re vectors but I actually just used raster images and Photoshop. Bigger shapes, it’s not pixel art you know. Keeping the palettes simple has been really important because I’m not the strongest artist ever, I’ve only been doing this for a couple of years, so I need limitations in order to be creatively successful. Basically there were three years I just tried to see how I could be very fast, very effective and make things that are good enough or basically a little above that. You can kind of see this progression over the history of Lost Decade Games: We started off with pixel art in Onslaught: Arena, and then our next game, Lunch Bug, had very smooth shapes and a lot more colors. Lava Blade I went a little too far and started to do just full up digital painting and that kind of showed me how expensive art can be. For our next project, which was the multiplayer game I took a step back, limited it to just 16 colors, but keeping these kind of big shapes that were very inspired by classic pixel art.

"...very inspired by classic pixel art"

“…very inspired by classic pixel art”

ME: Are there any other small influences that might have creeped in, because I know Fez packed a lot of subtle influences into the experience. I know your main influences are Zelda and Spelunky, are there any smaller games that have had an impact while you were making this game?

GEOFF: I don’t know about smaller games but, Gauntlet is in there. In the realm of the dark we have these entities that spawn so that there’s kind of this stream of things that come at you out of some kind of spawner which is a very Gauntlet inspired thing. Also, the rogue like genre in general there’s a lot of little things that come out of that like the randomization of the items, the different kinds of items you can find, picked up along the way from various different games that we’ve played.

ME: So I’m looking the info for this game and I’m noticing that you have a composer, Joshua Morse, who has done a fair bit actually. So, the music for this game has been inspired by the Sega Genesis era. Tell me about the music, how will it influence the game? How does it affect the atmosphere with its awesomeness?

MATT: Joshua Morse is awesome. We’ve been working with him as long as Lost Decade’s been making games. Every single game we’ve worked on, he’s been doing the audio for. He’s actually really well-known for doing a crazy amount of awesome remixes on an awesome remix site called Overclocked Remix. For this game, what he’s done is he’s been very inspired by the Genesis era, Josh and I spent a lot of time talking online and we’re both really big fans of that early 90’s era with stuff like Climax entertainment’s games like shining of the darkness, Geoff and I really love shining force and Josh has that same love as well. So a lot of those games, where the soundtracks are very diverse, especially games like Landstalker, it’s got tons of music, more music than most games and they range quite a bit, from like mysterious to a really great royal theme in the castle. All of those have played a part in inspiring Joshua for this soundtrack. He’s actually gone through his second re-imagining for just the type of ‘feel’ the sound has, he started off with something that sound much more like FM synthesis, like what a Genesis would sound like back in the day, but he’s kind of pivoted more towards something he feels would better suit the way the game feels.

The game definitely has a retro feel to it.

The game definitely has a retro feel to it.

ME: Music is always important in a game like this, because of the randomly generated content you need a thorough line, you need some that’s stable that provides a good grounding for the game to actually have some feeling to it. Sound design is also a very important aspect. Now about your stretch goals. Now that your Kickstarter has actually surpassed its goal, I notice that some of your stretch goals haven’t been met, but are the rest of them going to be added on eventually as DLC or something? I notice that you have a fire swamp dungeon, sand dungeon, ice dungeon, basically different themed worlds, and at 20k you have release on the WiiU. And you’re still releasing on the platform despite not reaching the goal?

MATT: I actually wrote a Kickstarter postmortem which I’m going to post on our blog today actually, probably right after this interview, with a lot of great takeaways on mistake we made, things we could have just done better on the Kickstarter and the stretch goals are a major point. There was recently an article, posted by one of the Kickstarter founders, which kind of cautions people stretching at all. I think if I could have gone back we wouldn’t have had any stretch goals. We started off having a Linux stretch goal, it was priced fairly high because we didn’t have Linux in our stack yet, but then Geoff took an afternoon and he managed to get Crypt Run working on Linux, so that’s just an example of how our stretch goals really weren’t planned out. As far as the rest of the content goes, the content really is one of the most expensive things for us to work on, and we estimated that it would take about a month for any given dungeon that we wanted to add, and since we didn’t make those stretch goal amounts the extra content will probably never see the light of day…Perhaps in a sequel.

GEOFF: I definitely feel like we didn’t approach the stretch goals as well as we could have. I think that some of the things are things that we really want to do, if the reception for Crypt Run is really good then I think that it’s possible to see some DLC or a sequel, depending on if it’s financially lucrative to keep working on it. We hope it will be. WiU, it’s not that we didn’t hit the stretch goal but we’re huge Nintendo fans and we are licensed developers for the WiiU and we want to do something with that. While we can’t say that the game will launch on WiiU alongside the PC/Mac/Linux version, it’s something that we really want to get to at some point, we just really want to release on WiiU. Period.

ME: The WiiU has not been getting much support from any developers in the past couple of months and a lot of people are looking at that as an endemic problem. Nintendo has been pretty much offering only first party titles that have been of much interest to anyone or ports of games available on other platforms. If an independent scene develops on that, I believe it will start to flourish just like the PS3 did in its later years with Journey, The Unfinished Swan, etc.

MATT: Yeah, definitely agree.

GEOFF: And we’re hoping that Nintendo’s actually taking a really interesting approach for us with their Nintendo web framework. Basically what that is, is it’s a framework that allows you to develop games for the WiiU using web technologies like HTML5 and Javascript, and that’s kind of our bread and butter. That’s one of things that’s really attractive about the WiiU to us is that there isn’t a huge porting cost hopefully.

ME: So the game is coming out on PC/MAC and Linux sometime in October, is there a specific release day in mind?

MATT: We’re aiming to release on Halloween, because the game’s got a spooky vibe to it, the first level is the cemetery, it’s got a lot of ghosts and goblins style enemies so we figure that would be an interesting day to release.

 " ...A halloween release, because the game's got a spooky vibe to it"

” …A Halloween release, because the game’s got a spooky vibe to it”

ME: Is there a price point for this game?

MATT: Fifteen Dollars USD

ME: Alright. This has been Twodashstash.com talking with Lost Decade Games. Joining me today was Matt Hackett and Geoff Blair. Thank you very much for joining me gentlemen.

MATT: Thanks for Having Us!

GEOFF: Thank you very much.

 

About The Author

Writer/Videographer
Google+

I am a composer/Writer and general video game badass who stumbled into a heck of an opportunity here at Twodashstash. I now spend my time plowing through games at ungodly hours of the night, then I make videos about them.